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PyTorch Update

jeudi 18 avril 2019

After another couple of weeks using PyTorch my initial enthusiasm has somewhat faded. I still like it a lot, but I have encountered many disadvantages. For one I can now see the advantage of TensorFlows static graphs - it makes the API easier to use. Since the graph is completely defined and then compiled you can just tell each layer how many units it should have and it will infer the number of inputs from whatever it's input is. In PyTorch you need to manually specify the inputs and outputs, which isn't a big deal, but makes it more difficult to tune networks since to change the number of units in a layer you need to change the inputs to the next layer, the batch normalization, etc. whereas with TensorFlow you can just change one number and everything is magically adjusted.

I also think that the TensorFlow API is better than PyTorch. There are some things which are very easy to do in TensorFlow which become incredibly complicated with PyTorch, like adding different regularization amounts to different layers. In TensorFlow there is a parameter to the layer that controls the regularization, in PyTorch you apparently need to loop through all of the parameters and know which ones to add what amount of regularization to.

I suppose one could easily get around these limitations with custom functions and such, and it shouldn't be surprising that TensorFlow seems more mature given that it has the weight of Google behind it, is considered the "industry standard", and has been around for longer. But I now see that TensorFlow has some advantages over PyTorch.

Libellés: python, machine_learning, tensorflow, pytorch
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lundi 08 avril 2019

When I first started with neural networks I learned them with TensorFlow and it seemed like TensorFlow was pretty much the industry standard. I did however keep hearing about PyTorch which was supposedly better than TensorFlow in many ways, but I never really got around to learning it. Last week I had to do one of my assignments in PyTorch so I finally got around to it, and I am already impressed.

The biggest problem I always had with TensorFlow was that the graphs are static. The entire graph must be defined and compiled before it is run and it can't be altered at runtime. You feed data into the graph and it returns output. This results in the rather awkward tf.Session() which must be created before you can do anything, and which contains all of the parameters for the model.

PyTorch has dynamic graphs which are compiled at runtime. This means that you can change things as you go, including altering the graph while it is running, and you don't need to have all the dimensions of all of the data specified in advance like you do in TensorFlow. You can also do things like change the numbers of neurons in a layer dynamically and drop entire layers at runtime which you can't do with TensorFlow.

Debugging PyTorch is a lot easier since you can just make a change and test it - you don't need to recreate the graph and instantiate a session to test it out. You can just run an optimization step whenever you want. Coming from TensorFlow that is just a breath of fresh air.

TensorFlow still has many advantages, including the fact that it is still an industry standard, is easier to deploy and is better supported. But PyTorch is definitely a worth competitor, is far more flexible, and solves many of the problems with TensorFlow.

Libellés: python, machine_learning, tensorflow, pytorch
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jeudi 10 janvier 2019

Usually when you think of a gradient boosted decision tree you think of XGBoost or LightGBM. I'd heard of CatBoost but I'd never tried it and it didn't seem too popular. I was looking at a Kaggle competition which had a lot of categorical data and I had squeezed just about every drop of performance I could out of LGBM so I decided to give CatBoost a try. I was extremely impressed.

Out of the box, with all default parameters, CatBoost scored better than the LGBM I had spent about a week tuning. CatBoost trained significantly slower than LGBM, but it will run on a GPU and doing so makes it train just slightly slower than the LGBM. Unlike XGBoost it can handle categorical data, which is nice because in this case we have far too many categories to do one-hot encoding. I've read the documentation several times but I am still unclear as to how exactly it encodes the categorical data, but whatever it does works very well.

I am just beginning to try to tune the hyperparameters so it is unclear how much (if any) extra performance I'll be able to squeeze out of it, but I am very, very impressed with CatBoost and I highly recommend it for any datasets which contain categorical data. Thank you Yandex! 

Libellés: coding, data_science, machine_learning, kaggle, catboost
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Exercise Log

mardi 27 novembre 2018

I exercise quite a lot and I have not been able to find an app to keep track of it which satisfies all of my criteria. Most fitness trackers are geared towards cardio and I also do a lot of strength training. After spending a year trying to make due with combinations of various fitness trackers and other apps I decided to just write my own, which could do everything I wanted and could show all of the reports I wanted.

I did that and after using it for a few weeks put it online at workout-log.com. It's not fancy and it is quite likely very buggy at this point, but it is open to anyone who wants to use it. 

It's written with Django and jQuery and uses ChartJS for the charts. 

Libellés: python, django, data_science, machine_learning
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CoLab TPUs One Month Later

mercredi 31 octobre 2018

After having used both CoLab GPUs and TPUs for almost a month I must significantly revise my previous opinion. Even for a Keras model not written or optimized for TPUs, with some minimal configuration changes TPUs perform much faster - minimum of twice the speed. In addition to making sure that all operations are TPU compatible, the only major configuration change required is increasing the batch size by 8. At first I was playing around with the batch size, but I realized that this was unnecessary. TPUs have 8 shards, so you simply multiple the GPU batch size by 8 and that should be a good baseline. 

The model I am currently training on a TPU and a GPU simultaneously is training 3-4x faster on the TPU than on the GPU and the code is exactly the same. I have this block of code:

use_tpu = True
# if we are using the tpu copy the keras model to a new var and assign the tpu model to model
if use_tpu:
    TPU_WORKER = 'grpc://' + os.environ['COLAB_TPU_ADDR']
    # create network and compiler
    tpu_model = tf.contrib.tpu.keras_to_tpu_model(
        model, strategy = tf.contrib.tpu.TPUDistributionStrategy(

The model is created with Keras and the only change I make is setting use_tpu to True on the TPU instance. 

One other thing I thought I would mention is that CoLab creates separate instances for GPU, TPU and CPU, so you can run multiple notebooks without sharing RAM or processor if you give each one a different type.

Libellés: machine_learning, tensorflow, google, google_cloud
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